9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A most welcome study, 17 April 2012
This is a splendid book. With considerable elegance it surveys the paradigmatic shifts in the understanding and treatment of a disease that was once familiar but now appears to have disappeared. We are, for example, led through medical preoccupation with the movement of the womb, hence `hys'teria, towards neurological explanations. Professor Scull broadens our understanding of this fascinating subject by demonstrating that, perhaps contrary to popular belief, this was not a condition that was confined to women. He provides an especially compelling and effective section on shell shock during the First World War. His study details the development and ever-increasing sub-categorisation of mental illness. This process has meant that the rather amorphous condition of hysteria has been dispersed into a range of other conditions outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Andrew Scull's account is both well-informed and lucid. Moreover, it is refreshingly free from the theory-laden claptrap that too frequently squeezes the life out of historical analyses of mental illness. This excellent book ought to be of interest to psychiatrists, psychologists, medics, historians, philosophers and the lay public. I recommend it unreservedly.